Weekly Photo Challenge – Shadow Play

Photo by – Ankush Arora

It’s a thrill I’ve recently begun to enjoy – capturing inanimate objects, without the presence of human beings. There’s a joy in observing inanimate things, which can have a story of their own.

So on a Sunday evening at a restaurant in Delhi I had my frame cut out for me. It had a rose, an empty chair, a nondescript wall hanging and a puddle of pale yellow light.

The table had another chair to its left, which I had to cut out because my humble smartphone camera wouldn’t accommodate that much! I liked the slanting shadow to the left of the frame. The pyramid-like white napkins complimented the low light condition in which I shot this picture as I waited for a plate of lemon fish, chicken soup and vegetarian spring rolls.

(In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Shadowed.”)

Why blogging?

On a rainy day in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh state (central India). Photo by – Tony Tharakan

I am a 28-year-old online journalist living in Delhi since my birth. I took to blogging because I needed a language that broke boundaries of a regular news story or feature, where I could record my impressions about places and experiences that necessarily didn’t need a ‘peg’ or a concrete idea. Where there are no rules or style guides to stick to. Where I report to myself as a reporter would to an editor.

Blogging, for me, should be an exercise in the unrestricted flow of thoughts finding their form in words; a canvas that is atmospheric and transmigrating. Blogging should be outgoing, if it has to be experiential. Spending a couple of hours with your laptop can never match the thrill of going out and observing the world yourself.

I am a visual person. Mostly, I imagine a blog post in terms of pictures and writing to them is my way of telling a story. Halfway through the draft, I look for images through my big, but not-so-great archive so as to compensate for a lack, if any, my writing may reflect.

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Inside the Humayun Tomb complex in Delhi. Photo by – Ankush Arora

My friends often encourage me to discard this cocooned existence and move to another city or a country. Point taken, but I am obsessed about this city, whose historicity – no less than that of several ancient cities of the world – never fails to let me down. And yet, I feel I don’t know this city so well. It is a friend to me, but not the best. It is a stranger to me, when I discover a ‘new’ ruin or a restaurant that smells quaint and warm. And blogging is our common friend, through whom I intend to reach out to this city that has many dichotomous characteristics: it is unpredictable, schizophrenic, often violent, and despite all that it feels homely at the end of the day.

Through the “Blogging 101” course, I hope to be able to learn how to blog better and get more audience. A better layout is much needed. I would like to connect with those who write about cities they travel to or live in.

After a little over half a year, I have written about Indian-Pakistani music, cultural events in Delhi, a moving obituary to a friend/former colleague, a friend’s coming out to me about her unwanted sexual experiences, a visit to India’s most haunted place etc. While my blogging focus will continue to be Delhi, I plan to keep my website a bit fluid so as to accommodate visits outside the city.

Photo Album – Dastkar’s South Asian handicrafts festival

About two years ago, when I bought my first DSLR camera I read a blog that said deleting images was a bad idea.

“I would be VERY careful of what I delete in terms of images.  Yes, get rid of those clearly flawed images. But the rest, even the ones that don’t strike you as worth processing? Give them some time to age. You may find they are a fine wine just waiting to be uncorked,” wrote New York-based photographer in this blog post.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? Sometimes your pictures don’t appeal to you. Mostly it happens when you’re back from a shoot and can’t figure out whether what you’ve got is good, bad, average, below average or pure crap. I’ve had days, when I failed to understand why I clicked what I clicked. And yet, looking back at some of those images after you’ve forgotten about them can be useful, such as a photo walk through a crafts bazaar.

Surfing through my archive, I found pictures from a South Asian handicrafts festival held in Delhi last year. The show was organised by Dastkar, a non-profit organisation devoted to the betterment of craftspeople.

The NGO came into being thirty years ago to support India’s craftsmen and craftswomen, most of them living in villages. “(India is) … a country where the craft sector is second only to agriculture in providing employment,” according to the website.

As of today, Dastkar works with more than 350 craft-groups and small producers, a relationship that helps thousands of Indian artisans from all over the country.

It recently organised a winter festival in Delhi, featuring artisans from Kashmir – an opportunity for them to regain means of their livelihood after floods hit the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir in September.

These images illustrate handicrafts made by artisans from South Asia. The tea cosy from Afghanistan is beautiful and vivid in its clarity of design. The kitchenware from Gujarat stood out in its austerity and simplicity of craft. And of course, there were more handbangs and earrings than anything else. In the food corner, aloo masala bhat, a snack from Maharashtra, proved to be more sumptuous than the regular biryani, ‘momos’ or kebabs.

tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o9_r1_1280 tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o8_r1_1280 tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o10_r1_1280(You can follow Dastkar on Facebook)

A Pictorial Ode to Delhi’s Barakhamba Avenue

Once upon a time, walking on the wide Barakhamba Road, which is home to many offices and the famous Modern School, I coveted a full-time job on the tenth floor of a building that looked more like a deserted, brittle glass house.

And then, as if the wish was granted in the mere batting of an eyelid, this cosy avenue in central Delhi has become a second home.

Being a self-confessed Instagram addict, I have documented the changing hues of this business district before and after a work schedule that has stretched over almost four years, five days a week and eight hours a day.

It is a well-known fact that Barakhamba derives its name from a nobleman’s house built during the rule of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, the 14th century ruler of Delhi. The house, originally built on this road, doesn’t exist any more. It had twelve pillars, hence bara khamba.

A monument of the same name, according to Wikipedia, exists in south Delhi, close to the shrine of great sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya.

But, the protagonists of my pictures are not the demolished nobleman’s house or the Lodi period monument south of Delhi.

Let’s take a detour. In Bollywood film “Queen”, recall a harried Indian girl running away from the very sight of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Her fiance dumped her a day or two before the marriage. And she’s come to this romantic city by herself. The tower is a painful reminder of her honeymoon that never took place. No matter how fast and far she runs, the formidable structure somehow manages to catch her attention, willy nilly.

Although nobody has snubbed me yet, but a certain black and white striped building does hold my attention through the day and that I am sure is true for most who come to Barakhamba everyday.

I have captured the building in its various moods – sometimes it glitters against the dark blue evening sky, resplendent under the street light; it pales when the sun shines bright like a sharp sword; during monsoon, it looks old and vulnerable; and after the rain stops, its reflection resembles a corroding memory stuck in a scrapbook.

My lead characters are also — the homeless, sleeping outside the metro station; passengers walking into a flood of sunlight invading the entrance of the metro; men reading newspapers at the bus stop; the sweeper removing remnants of the previous day; and the morning newspapers waiting to be delivered to their rightful owners.

At the corner of a busy street, dotted with eateries, an old man poses for me after sipping tea. At sunrise, I have seen Barakhamba Road shedding the cloak of night, turning into a soft crimson scape. At night, it is lined with twinkling street lights. The emptiness on the road reverberates with the sound of police patrolling vans.

Here’s a slideshow –

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(You can follow me on Instagram by clicking here and on Twitter I am @Ankush_patrakar)

Unpeople-ing Photography

Imagine a solitary train ride to work every morning. Empty coaches, deserted platforms, and war-mongering passengers conspicuous by their absence.

Imagine the sound of silence inside the Delhi metro, usually the site of a near stampede.

Imagine not seeing anyone on the road, at work; or, worse, at home.

Imagine a world un-peopled. Un-peopled for all. So that you see and hear yourself, and no one else.

In a 2007 fascinating non-fiction book “The World Without Us”, American journalist Alan Weisman imagines the state of the natural and man-made environment if humans were to suddenly disappear.

“If human beings disappeared instantaneously from the Earth, what would happen? How would the planet reclaim its surface? What creatures would emerge from the dark and swarm? How would our treasured structures–our tunnels, our bridges, our homes, our monuments–survive the unmitigated impact of a planet without our intervention?” reads the book jacket.

That’s Wiesman’s award-winning figment of imagination. My imagination also took a flight of its own on a wet Sunday morning, when I shot pictures on Instagram that ended up having no room for humans.

They say everything is about humans. Indeed. News and news photography too, which is part of my profession for a few years now. For, a journalist wouldn’t bother writing about a dog being killed in a road accident, I recall my journalism school professor saying to an impressionable group of aspirants.

Anyway, I want to take you through my pictures that imagine a world without humans.

(You can follow me on Instagram by clicking here and on Twitter I am @Ankush_patrakar)

In Kavyanjali Kaushik’s Sublime Frames, Life Stagnates – Beautifully

Writing by Ankush Arora; Pictures by Kavyanjali Kaushik

Indian journalist Kavyanjali Kaushik’s Instagram feed is a riotous mosaic of pictures that document the banality of life, except that the final frame is anything but ordinary.

From capturing sunsets, monsoon clouds, India’s formidable hills and jungles to the stack of newspapers insider her residence, her photo gallery – more often than not – blurs the line between the real and the imaginary, thanks in part to a variety of photography apps available in the market.

For instance, the picture of a solitary crow perched atop a branch or that of an overcast sunset sky dissolves the distinction between photography and paintings/postcards.

Kavyanjali. Photo by ZhaZo.

Kavyanjali. Photo by ZhaZo.

In Kavyanjali’s sublime frames, life stagnates – beautifully. There is an air of stillness about her compositions and that’s the result of a skillful play of natural light with just the right amount of editing. And of course, an eye for narrating a visual story.

Kavyanjali, who has studied art appreciation at Delhi’s National Museum, says she took to photos because she could “no longer express that much with words”.

The difficulty of expressing through the written word then finds a outlet in visuals, some of which have the ability to stand the test of time, according to me, at least.

For, nothing matches the intensity of a photograph showing a heavy crimson sky that appears to be on fire or an array of evening lights dotted against a hue of orange and blue. Such landscapes – and detail – create an eerie effect of a capital city that is far from normal in many ways.

But, my favourite are two shots of trees hunched together that make for a melancholy sight, edited to resemble an oil painting; a fade out into the fantastic.

The tunnel picture is a perfect postcard and the image of sunlight filtering through the window onto a pile of newspapers is particularly striking.

Here’s a slideshow of her pictures with their original captions –

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(Kavya works for India Today magazine and lives in Noida. On Twitter, she’s @KavyanjaliK)